Former NFL quarterback, congressman and Vice Presidential nominee Jack Kemp died today at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 73 years old. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Mr. Kemp “one of the nation’s most distinguished public servants.”
Mr. Kemp was a 17th round draft pick for Detroit in 1957, but the Lions cut him during camp. He bounced around for several years before the Buffalo Bills, through a contract technicality, bought him for $100.00. After eleven seasons with the Bills (during which he suffered 12 concussions, two broken ankles, and a crushed hand – which he insisted doctors set in a passing position so he could keep playing), Mr. Kemp was elected to Congress as a Republican by his fans in Buffalo.
As he explained, “Pro football gave me a good perspective. When I entered the political arena, I had already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded, and hung in effigy.”
Mr. Kemp was well-regarded throughout his political career by both sides of the aisle: he opposed abortion and supported school prayer, but also pushed for immigration reform and guest-worker programs for immigrants. In 1988 he ran for President, and eight years later was back on the Republican ticket as Presidential candidate Bob Dole’s running mate.